SPORTING IMAGES / Those memorable moments that lit up the world of sport in 1992: Athletics: Christie utterly calm before storm

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The Independent Online
AFTER the disillusionment of the previous September, when he had failed to win a medal despite recording a European record time of 9.92sec, Linford Christie was determined to gain more tangible recognition for his talent in this year's Olympic 100 metres event, writes Mike Rowbottom.

His form going into Barcelona had been promising - of his opponents there, only one, Olapade Adeniken of Nigeria, had beaten him, and only one, Leroy Burrell of the United States, had not been beaten by him. And Carl Lewis, winner of the last two Olympic 100m golds, was not there to stop him after his debacle at the US trials.

At 32, Christie knew that this was his chance. The moment awaited him; could he seize it?

All these circumstances created the athlete who took to his blocks in the Olympic stadium. Christie had always been - to use the athletics buzzword of the Games - 'focused'. But there was an almost alarming intensity about him now.

After negotiating the earlier rounds, including a tense semi-final only a couple of hours before the final itself, he left the track in the same robotic manner - not pausing after the finish, merely changing down gear to a jog for the tunnel, looking neither to left or right, head high as if he was balancing a jug of water on it. It was any drop of concentration he seemed loath to spill.

Thus when he took to his blocks shortly before 8pm on the warm evening of 1 August, with Burrell and Dennis Mitchell, the men who had beaten him to silver and bronze in Tokyo, either side of him, he was able to eschew the bobbing and stretching with which the seven other men occupied themselves.

He stood still. He stared at the far line. Before the wild, shying-horse stare at 60 metres, when he realised he had it won, came this moment of intense serenity. 'You are just blocking out everything else,' he said. 'Blocking out the crowd and the opposition. It's concentrated concentration. You are listening for the starter's command. You know you have to try and get everything you have got into that 10 seconds, so reaction to the gun is the only thing.'

There is no thought even of mentally rehearsing the run ahead. 'I will have done that hours before,' he said. 'You can't afford to have anything else in your mind because if you are halfway through breaking down the race and the gun goes then you are not prepared. Once you set the blocks up, you can't afford all that. One blink of an eye and you can lose.'

The gun fired. In that place, on that day, there was no question of losing for Linford Christie.

(Photograph omitted)

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